Why Fear Doesn’t Work

angry faceIt’s a great day when you can whip through a meeting, present the plan and assign roles and responsibilities. Everyone is nodding and then they all go back to their desks and get to work. That’s solid, effective leadership, right?

Not so fast. Fear might factor into the silence.

High performing companies get results because they know that sometimes an employee rocking the boat can lead to bigger and better results. Employees speak up because they’re not afraid: not afraid they’ll be shut down, shut out or punished for any push back.

Keep in mind: your brand isn’t you. It’s bigger than that. So while your role is to lead, be wary of myopic vision.

Influence, not authority.Kenneth Blanchard

CEO leadership is more effective when you can affect change through influence, not by force of your authority. That means that employees can say, “You’re wrong about this” or “Have you thought about XYZ?” Organizational health is marked by a culture where everyone has a voice, even ones that disagree with the status quo. Those dissenters often open the dialog to greater opportunity and are more effective and innovative at achieving the overall goals.


Here are some signs that your workplace culture makes employees fearful of presenting alternative views and how to combat the CEO Fear Factor:

  • yes-men. If all heads are nodding when you hold meetings, you’ve surrounded yourself with yes-men. Make sure you’ve got at least 3 people who are willing to tell you when you’re off track, off base or dead wrong.
  • listen high and low. Make sure that voices at all levels of your organization have an opportunity to be heard. When considering input, are you hearing only from sales? What about customer service? Operations? Does the person who greets customers at the door or by the phone have an opportunity to express his insights, experiences and ideas?
  • diverse voices. Men, women, varying ages, education levels, national origin, race, religion and ethnicity. Diverse audiences will speak up if they trust they will be heard.
  • open your door. Make yourself available to all employees at some point during the week or month when they can speak with you one-on-one. If you’re not hearing from anyone (or it’s only the same ones over and over), you need to address why only the usual suspects come knocking.
  • go outside. When all the voices in your organization are struggling with the same issue or fail to address a challenge, look outside to partners, vendors, volunteers, sponsors and others who share the mission and passion for your organization. Their outside perspective may bring clarity.

When there are no questions, no discussion and no alternate points of view, you should be asking why not. If fear is a factor, knock that out.

If you need help creating an open, fear-free culture, call Alexandra Reilly direct at 785.383.3689.

tags: brand loyalty, employees, training, customer service, leadership, strategic planning, change management

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